It’s interesting watching the reactions to the news of Green Lantern‘s underwhelming first weekend box office take – There’s definitely a school of thought out there that just clearly wants the movie to flop, and is practically rubbing hands together with glee at the news that it only took in $52.7 million, far below Thor‘s debut, and even X-Men: First Class. Is it a complete disaster? Well, no, not a complete one… Here’re five things to consider about the weekend showing.
How Bad Is $52.7 Million, Really?
It’s… not good. It’s might not be a complete disaster – I would guess that would have been under $50 million, to be honest – but considering that it made just over $2 million less than X-Men: First Class, a movie that, for all intents and purposes cost half the amount, it’s pretty close, especially considering internal estimates had the movie doing closer to $60 million in the first weekend, and the midnight Thursday opening results were better than Thor‘s, leading some to believe that it might have outperformed Marvel’s first superhero movie of the summer. In fact, that midnight opening may have made the narrative of the opening weekend even worse, going from “That’s even better than Thor, this will be a smash!” to “Oh, so that‘s how bad word of mouth is.” And speaking of word of mouth…
21% Drop On The Second Day?
There is no way of disguising the fact that box office falling 21% on the second day means that people just didn’t really want to see this movie. There was a much smaller drop-off between the second and third day – 9% – which might suggest that the movie found its feet quickly, but I tend to doubt it; Sunday was Father’s Day, and it’s possible that a holiday bump merely disguised what might otherwise have been an equally big (or worse, bigger still) drop. That big a drop on a Saturday can’t be put down to marketing or anything else – This is entirely down to bad reviews and bad word of mouth. Basically, people seem to have realized that they don’t really want to see Green Lantern that badly, and it’s going to be tough, if not downright impossible, for Warners to turn that around to avoid a humiliating crash on the second weekend.
So, 3D Really Is Hurting
Part of the under performance of the movie has to be put down to the fact that 3D actually does seem to be genuinely hurting right now; advance ticket sales for both Lantern and Mr. Popper’s Penguins were slower in 3D than 2D, which points back to the larger trend (First raised when Pirates of The Caribbean‘s latest installment similarly stalled in theaters) that, in the year when studios seem to have finally bought into the hype around 3D being the future of cinema, audiences are turning away from the format. If Lantern hadn’t banked so much on its visuals, hoping to make a 3D spectacular (Having seen the movie in 3D, I don’t think there’s anything in it that really takes full advantage of the format. “Oh, it’s a ring floating right in front of my face!” etc.), would it have fared better at the box office? Maybe not, but it would have meant that it would have been a much cheaper movie to make, and so the financial embarrassment for Warners wouldn’t be so big.
Is This Superhero Fatigue?
No. Superhero fatigue is a diagnosis you could’ve made if Thor and X-Men: First Class had also underperformed, but they haven’t. This is, pure and simple, the audience en masse deciding that they don’t really want to see the movie, thanks very much. You could point to multiple reasons why this might be the case, and I think there are arguments for them all being true – I’d especially call out the marketing campaign, which really didn’t serve the movie particularly well, even if it did massage the existing fanbase a little bit too much (Why not mention that Blake Lively was in the movie? She has a fanbase, right? Why did Tim Robbins, playing one of the larger characters in the movie, get entirely ignored in the promo, but Kilowog and Tomar Re, who are barely in the movie, get posters all to themselves? etc. etc.), but there are many rumors that they did the best they could with what little they actually knew of the finished movie. More than anything, I think, this is what happens when a movie that’s okay at best (I think we can all agree that it’s not actually that much worse than Thor, say) meets an audience that hasn’t fallen for the pre-release hype and learned that they’re supposed to be excited by it.
Or, as Spinoff/CBR head honcho Jonah Weiland put it on Twitter, anyone who really thinks superhero fatigue is setting in should watch what happens next year, when The Dark Knight Rises and Avengers are released.
So Where Now For Warners and DC?
That’s the big question. Plans are already afoot for Green Lantern 2 and The Flash, and unless Warners considers this movie so much of a flop that it’s worth the embarrassment, I’d expect at least the latter to go ahead, and the cross-media portions of DC Entertainment to remain in place for now. But Warners’ patience isn’t infinite, and with Lantern yet another under-performer from the DC stable (See also Jonah Hex, Watchmen, Superman Returns, Catwoman and, well, everything that’s not Smallville or Batman-related), the pressure really has to be on for the next big thing to actually be the Next Big Thing… or else. Let’s hope they can pull it off… for their own sakes.
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